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Going backwards

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The Ontario Ford government has a new license plate slogan “A Place To Grow” and yet for Northern Ontario residents and students, the government is making it more difficult to grow and become educated, let alone develop new skills for the changing 21st century economy.

First came the huge cuts to education which appears to be forcing boards to create bigger class sizes and rely more on web learning or e-learning. In rural areas, that means less face-to-face teaching and hands-on learning for high schoolers.

And last week the Conservative provincial government slashed assistance to libraries across the province. The 128 Northern Ontario libraries now face the shutdown of interlibrary book transfers.

Rural and Indigenous libraries face real problems because they lack robust book collections. Up until last week, those libraries could resource volumes from other libraries, enabling even the smallest library to have access to the same collections as the largest.

This is a short-sighted decision that will have lasting impacts across rural and northern Ontario. Last year, the Fort Frances Public Library brought in 633 books through the interlibrary loan service.

This provincial decision impacts students in communities like Fort Frances, Kenora Dryden, Atikokan, and area First Nations taking courses through community colleges and universities. The students are now at a greater disadvantage in upgrading skills and degrees for the new economy.

The potential costs to maintain existing services will require a 20 percent increase in the Fort Frances Public Library's budget, something that local taxpayers will have to consider. And one must ask, “Will the other 128 libraries get the needed funding from their local governments?”

It is a disastrous decision by the PC government. Maybe the license plate slogan should be “A Place To Grow Backwards?”

—Jim Cumming

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